Illinois law

Retaliatory Discharge Claim for Employees who Complain about Unpaid Wages under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act.

On December 23, 2021, the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District, held that the Amended Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (the "Act") creates a statutory cause of action for retaliatory discharge for an employee whose employment has been terminated for exercising his or her rights under the Act.  Dichiarro v. Woodland Maintenance Group, LLC, et al., 2021 IL App (2d) 210418 (2nd Dist. Dec. 23, 2021).  The plaintiff alleged that the defendants terminated her employment in retaliation for and because of her repeated demands for payment of unpaid wages due and owing to her under the terms and conditions of her employment agreement.  Under Illinois common law, an employer may discharge an employee at will, at any time, with or without cause.  Illinois courts, however, have recognized the tort of retaliatory discharge as a limited and narrow exception to the at-will employment doctrine.

Who is a Disabled Employee under the Illinois Human Rights Act?

On November 23, 2021, the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District, reversed an order of the trial court, that had dismissed the plaintiff's disability discrimination complaint on the ground that he was not disabled within the meaning of the Illinois Human Rights Act (the "Act").  Jackson v. TSA Processing Chicago, Inc., et al., 2021 IL App (2d) 200769 (2nd Dist. Nov. 23, 2021).  The plaintiff alleged that the defendants discriminated against him on the basis of his disability in violation of the Act.  At issue on appeal was whether he is disabled under the Act.

Race, Religion, and National Origin Discrimination Claims under Title VII and the Illinois Human Rights Act.

On September 1, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer, in a Title VII and Illinois Human Rights Act employment discrimination lawsuit, in which the plaintiff, an Egyptian Muslim pharmacist, alleged that: (i) the employer failed to accommodate his need for prayer breaks; (ii) disciplined and later fired him based on his race, religion, and national origin; (iii) retaliated against him for reporting racial and religious discrimination; and (iv) subjected him to a hostile work environment based on his race, religion, and national origin.  Mahran v. Advocate Christ Medical Center, et al., No. 19-2911 (7th Cir. Sept. 1, 2021).

Employer not Liable for Title VII Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliaiton under the Cat's Paw Theory.

On May 28, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer and against a former employee on her Title VII employment discrimination and retaliation claims.  Vesey v. Envoy Air, Inc. d/b/a American Eagle Airlines, Inc., No. 20-1606 (7th Cir. May 28, 2021).  The plaintiff, an airline agent, was terminated, according to the airline, after she abused her travel privileges.  She filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that she was harassed because of her race and terminated in retaliation for reporting the harassment.

What is the New Illinois Non-Compete Law?

On August 13, 2021, Governor Pritzker signed the Illinois Freedom to Work Act (the "Act") into law, which became effective on January 1, 2022, and applies to non-competition and non-solicitation agreements entered into after the effective date.  The Act codifies Illinois law on non-competition and non-solicitation agreements.  In so doing, the Act establishes a set of statutory requirements and express prohibitions, with which Illinois employers should immediately familiarize themselves.  The Act is distilled and outlined below.

I. Statutory Requirements

Are Non-Competition and Non-Solicitation Agreements Enforceable in Illinois?

Whether a non-competition or non-solicitation agreement is valid and enforceable under Illinois law depends upon the specific terms of the agreement, as well as the unique facts and circumstances surrounding the agreement, employment, separation of employment, and post-employment employee conduct.

Adequate Consideration

The first question is whether adequate consideration exists to support a restrictive covenant.

Illinois Supreme Court Affirms Dismissal of Retaliatory Discharge Lawsuit

On February 4, 2021, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of claims for retaliatory discharge and violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Protection Act.  Rehfield v. Diocese of Joliet, 2021 IL 125656 (Feb. 4, 2021).  Plaintiff alleged that defendant unlawfully retaliated against her by terminating her for reporting a parent’s threatening conduct to police.  Plaintiff alleged that her employment termination violated Illinois public policy to investigate and prosecute criminal offenses.  She further alleged that defendant’s actions were likely to make other staff and faculty members reluctant to come forward to report potentially unlawful or criminal conduct.  Plaintiff also alleged that defendant’s actions violated the Illinois Whistleblower Act, which prohibits Illinois employers from retaliating against Illinois employees for disclosing information to a law enforcement agency, provided that the employee has reasonable cause to believe the information discloses a violation of a state or federal law, rule, or regulation.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer in Title VII Lawsuit

On January 19, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a Title VII employment discrimination lawsuit alleging wrongful termination on the basis of national origin, race, and religion, as well as unlawful retaliation.  Khungar v. Access Community Health Network, No. 20-1958 (Jan. 19, 2021).  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, and genetic information.  To defeat a summary judgment motion in a Title VII case, a plaintiff must raise factual disputes sufficient to support a reasonable finding of discrimination by a jury.  A plaintiff may prove employment discrimination with direct or circumstantial evidence under the direct or indirect burden-shifting method.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer in Title VII Lawsuit

On January 19, 2012, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a Title VII employment discrimination lawsuit alleging unlawful discrimination on the basis of national origin, race, and religion, as well as unlawful retaliation.  Khungar v. Access Community Health Network, No. 20-1958 (Jan. 19, 2021).  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, and genetic information.  To defeat a summary judgment motion in a Title VII case, a plaintiff must raise factual disputes sufficient to support a reasonable finding of discrimination by a jury.  A plaintiff may prove employment discrimination with direct or circumstantial evidence under the direct or indirect burden-shifting method.

Illinois Appellate Court Explains Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress in the Employment Context

On October 27, 2020, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in an Illinois state court lawsuit for retaliatory discharge and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  Dipietro v. GATX Corp., 2020 IL App (1st) 192196.  The plaintiff alleged that her termination of employment violated clearly mandated public policy announced in the Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act (the "Act") and the Chicago Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.  The defendant moved for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) the plaintiff did not engage in any protected activity; (2) her discharge did not violate public policy; (3) there was no causal connection between her complaints and her termination; and (4) the proffered reason for her termination was not pretextual.  The defendant also argued that its alleged conduct was not sufficiently outrageous to support the plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and that her claimed emotional distress was not actionable.

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